Causative Agent

Dental caries is caused principally by Streptococcus mutans and closely related species. The bacteria live only on the teeth and cannot colonize the mouth in the absence of teeth. They produce lactic acid as a by-product of their metabolism of sugars, and unlike many other bacteria, they thrive under acidic conditions below pH 5. Another important feature is that they produce insoluble extracellular glucans from sucrose, but not from other sugars. Glucans, polysaccharides composed of repeating subunits of glucose, are essential for the production of dental caries on smooth tooth surfaces. ■ polysaccharides, p. 29

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